Wanders in the garden

Weekends at Harlow Carr include looking after some feathered friends and enjoying late summer blooms

Working weekends has its treats and rewards; I get to do jobs that I'm not normally involved with, such as helping out with the chickens. This involves letting them out of their coop while you clean and replace their bedding, and give them lovely fresh straw that retains its meadow scent and reminds me of summer. The girls were very appreciative of the chard I picked for them, they all fell upon it feverishly and were pecking for all their worth.

Dangerous gourds

After doing the chickens I stopped to admire our fig-leafed gourds, which are huge and growing bigger daily. They have scrambled over a frame in the Kitchen Garden and are now dangling down from an arch. We have cordoned the archway off so people can’t walk underneath the heavy gourds, as if one fell on someone it would do them a mischief. You can see the headline can’t you? “Visitor hospitalised by errant gourd”.

Late summer sunshine

The garden has taken on that late-summer hue: the dew is heavy, the light is softer and the garden's appearance mellows. I like this time of year as the days still retain enough warmth to be pleasant without the intensity and humidity of mid-summer.

The main borders are looking sumptuous; with lots of late-summer colour. This is their glory time and visitors love to photograph and appreciate them. Of particular interest is our newest monkshood (Aconitum), which is a diminutive white version of its bigger blue cousin and is called Aconitum ‘Ivorine’.

A final flourish

Other good ‘doers’ that are performing well include, rudbeckias, heleniums and asters - some of which have recently been renamed Symphyotrichum. I don't think that name will roll off my tongue any time soon, many of us will forever (unofficially anyway) fondly call them asters or michaelmas daisies.

Another superstar plant now flowering well is bergamot (Monarda), and this year we have a new cultivars called Monarda ‘Vintage Wine’ and M. ‘Othello’ – both of which are rich magenta colours. All the monardas are loved by bees and their flowerheads always have all manner of insects hovering about them.

So as summer drifts onwards into autumn and the plants start shutting down, we will have all our fiery autumn leaf colour and toffee apple scents to look forward to. Be sure to come and enjoy it with us.

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